Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Spinning Retreat 2010

I've been on gatherings with women before, every year my Bee gathers, all 6 of us in a quiet place and we eat dinner out, cook a few meals and do some hand work. Then I've been to the Mayflower Quilter's Retreat several times. 60 women gather to quilt and talk and laugh. Nothing quiet about this gathering, it's 4 full days of noise but hardly a retreat in the sense of removing oneself from the onslaught of every day.

Last weekend I went to Mill River Resort in West Prince Edward Island for a spinning retreat. What could be more peaceful? A small gathering of women, spinning wheels, a bit of fleece to spin and a dinner.

Look at this!

103 women, more than 103 spinning wheels, enough fleece to spin non-stop for 8 years and the noise level.....very high.

There were conversations on types of wheels, types of fleece, methods to blend several things at once, colours, the best ways to get the fleece to draw into the wheel, the best ways to over spin or under spin, to ply two or more threads together and that was just the first 10 minutes.

There were several spinning demonstrations given during this maelstrom of voices. There is more than one way to get two different yarns to blend together to make crazy and wonky things, there are several ways to knit or crochet or rug hook or weave these yarns and there are variations among variations.

There were several contests related to "Wild Spinning". There was spinning wild textures,

spinning with wild fibres,

This spinner used reindeer moss on its own and then blended it with fleece. Crazy.
Spinning with crazy things like the Globe and Mail newspaper, surgical gloves or VHS tapes.

There was also making wild items out of the hand spun yarns and wild textures.

And I tried to shop.

I should have taken a picture of vendor's room. Imagine the first photo in neat rows of tables and with the women careening around the room looking at all the fleece and oddments that they will need until the next vendor's event in a year.

There were 10 vendors, all from Atlantic Canada selling alpacca fleece of various colours, romeny fleece, merino fleece, corridale and several other sheep type fleeces, fleece blended with soy silk or hemp, or silk or other wools or persian cat. There was a vendor with angora goat's fleece, another with rabbit fleece and another with quivit (arctic woolly buffalo kinds of animals). There were hundreds of colours, there was equipment, several wheels to test and there was already spun yarn all ready for knitting. The first night when I traipsed in there, I was entirely overwhelmed. The lighting was poor, I couldn't tell if a blue was a blue or a black and yet people were shopping like crazy. I decided to take a look around, whenever the crowd parted enough to get a glimpse and then think on it. That night in bed, while Steve snored happily beside me I considered a lighter smaller bottom drop spindle or not; that lovely dark brown romeny to go with Floozy's oatmeal colour; the bag of bright reds, oranges, and pinks for a bit of winter fun? What about all that alpacca? Should I or shouldn't I? I had a hard time falling asleep.

Saturday morning I joined a beginners flash lesson. How to spin in 45 minutes. 20 people joined the group, about 12 people more than had been expected. There were over 30 new spinners at the retreat, two who had started spinning the day before because a relative had insisted they come to the retreat for some 'real fun'.

I was interested in learning how to get my tension so that I didn't over-spin yarn into corkscrews, and I wondered what other people did with the end results of their spinning. Yes I have two entire sheeps worth of fleece to spin, but for a bit of colour fun, I have spun some odds and ends and get 35 m of this and 17 m of that. What do people do with these odd amounts?

Over the course of the two days I managed to learn the answers to my two questions. I also managed to find the brain power to meet the challenge spinning. Between times I spun a fair bit on my first sheep's fleece (can't tell you about it, it's a future birthday present).

In the middle of all this, we had received gift bags that held brightly coloured fleece along with metalic yarn, some scrap silk and the challenge was to blend the three into some sort of wild yarn by the day's end. This was a pretty big challenge to me, a beginner spinner.

I received a very bright lime green fleece with a cool blue/green metalic something and a square of gold silk fabric. I thought the colours were all pretty marvelous but blending three things together was beyond my skill set. I tried holding the green and metallic together in one hand but it soon became a mess. There were drum carders in the foyer (there is a lengthy story about those carders but I'm getting hungry). The drum carders take all kinds of bits and pieces of fleece and whatnot and churn it through this small opening and this big wheel with thousands of sharp spikes takes it all and turns it into a "batt" of organized fibres which can then be spun. I threw my green and metallic into the torture chamber and it came out looking pretty spiffy.

I spun most of it at home because I lost a few hours to a visit to MacCausland Woolen Mill. It has been in production for ages, carding fleece, spinning yarn and using their yarns for great blankets. It is a building dedicated to the work, not the workers.

After a banquet and some questionable food, lots of laughs and some great prizes, (I won an incredible basket of alpacca fleece, yarns, slipper insoles and a gift certificate) we hit the hay. For those of you who are fans of Steve, he did not spin, he graded 100 quizzes, played his banjo, watched hockey and was stunned by the amount of noise.

As we were packing up to go on a bit of a road trip, we noticed this female grouse in the tree outside out window. There were moments when I could have joined her for a bit of quiet time out, but overall, it was a event. I really do think the word 'retreat' needs to be reconsidered. Maybe onslaught?

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